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Sidetracks Music Hall by Bud Gambrell: Book Review

Nicole Brice

Sep 20, 2023

Bud Gambrell has compiled a journey through music in “Sidetracks Music Hall”—a memoir rich with local history

When Bud Gambrell first contacted me to read his newly published book about the now-defunct Sidetracks Music Hall in Huntsville, Alabama, I had never heard of it … but I was intrigued. After reading the meticulously orchestrated memoir from cover to cover, I became engrossed in the history behind a truly unique establishment that not only touched the hearts of the patrons who frequented the space but also had a lasting impact on the musicians who played there.

“Sidetracks Music Hall” offers a unique perspective on the magic of those live performances and on the lasting impact of the energy the space provided. Bud’s attention to detail in firsthand accounts from musicians, employees, and fans presents an engaging book that leaves no stone unturned and immerses readers in the vibrant atmosphere that was Sidetracks Music Hall. Though only open for a few years, the venue had a huge impact on the area that persists even today and is felt in the narratives of local musicians and patrons who offer a rare glimpse into the passion and dedication that goes into running a music establishment.

Released June 8, 2023

The narrative of “Sidetracks Music Hall” seamlessly intertwines Gambrell’s personal anecdotes with the historical evolution of the music space, and through his encounters with renowned musicians—both big names and rising stars—the author offers readers an intimate glimpse into the creative process and the inner workings of the music and restaurant industry.

What sets “Sidetracks Music Hall” apart is Gambrell’s ability to paint vivid portraits of the artists he met. From poetic songwriters to energetic performers, Bud captures the essence of their unique musical styles and personalities in moments that provide an intimate connection between the reader and the musicians, evoking a deeper appreciation for their craft.

Gambrell’s attention to detail pulls the reader into the heart of what Sidetracks Music Hall was, not just to the locals, but to the artists and musicians who frequently took the stage there. It is worth noting that while “Sidetracks Music Hall” beautifully captures the spirit of live music, it also touches upon the challenges faced by the industry.

Photo courtesy of Bud Gambrell

“Sidetracks Music Hall” is a compelling memoir that takes readers on an unforgettable journey through the world of live music in Alabama. Through evocative storytelling and insightful reflections, Gambrell not only pays homage to various musicians but also sheds light on the unique power of live performances. Whether you’re a devoted music fan or are just simply curious about the magic that happens on stage, this book will leave you with a deeper appreciation for the music that moves us all.

In order to get a better feel for the love behind the narrative, I reached out to Bud, who’s also a photographer, for a deeper knowledge of the lasting legacy Sidetracks Music Hall has provided.


MaM: Thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. Give us a little background info on you.

BG: Well, if I go back to the very beginning, I was born in Louisiana but raised in North Alabama. I’ve been a music lover my entire life and have actually been accused of being a music snob a few times. I’ve looked it up in the Urban Dictionary, too, and the first definition of it is definitely me. I’ve been going to concerts for a long time, and when they first opened Sidetracks Music Hall, I didn’t know that much about it. I knew that they were trying to cater to original bands and musicians, but one day I just started going and it just kind of became a second home to me. It just had something about the place … this aura. It’s hard to explain if you weren’t there, but the atmosphere was amazing.

MaM: What gave you the idea to write and compile your book?

BG: I actually got my idea when I was at Sidetracks last year. I was there shooting Ace Monroe and I was talking to the road manager. We were discussing my coming up to shoot a show they were playing at the EXIT/IN, and we were sitting at the bar, and I saw a book for this venue right there and the idea came from those who had chronicled and circled back all these bands and acts that had played EXIT/IN. It was around this time, too, that I found out Sidetracks was closing.

Various logos of Sidetracks over the years

MaM: How long did it take you to compile everything?

BG: Well, I started on the book, and within a month, Sidetracks closed. September 4, 2022, was the last night. By the first of October, I had already started doing interviews and talking to people. Around the holidays, though, I almost abandoned it because it was so much, but by the first of the year, I told myself that I needed to finish it. I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it, but the inspiration came about because of my love for the place. It was a true labor of love.

MaM: You mentioned photography earlier. Give us a little more info about your work in that arena.

BG: Well, I’ve always been a hobby shutterbug ... I remember being in the Boy Scouts and taking pictures with a camera, but I can’t remember the model, and they don’t make them anymore, but it was a Kodak shaped like a box and you had to look down through the top of it and there was a thumb button to take the pictures. So, I would take those cameras on camping trips, and I’ve always had some type of camera around, but three years ago in 2020, to keep from going stir crazy, I got a drone and started with that. Several people told me the photos and videos from it were great and that I should become a professional and the next thing I knew, I was starting a photography business.

Ace Monroe with Bud Gambrell at Sidetracks Music Hall. All of the photos on the wall behind them were shot by Bud.

MaM: So, where do you like to shoot?

BG: Right now, I shoot some local stuff at some bars, but a good bit of what I’m doing is at our local civic center. They’ve got four rooms there, and you’re shooting photos and listening to music, so it never feels like work. I got to shoot Joe Satriani last year, which was a dream show, and I’ve shot Gov’t Mule, Warren Haynes, and ZZ Top, too.

Joe Satriani - photo by Bud Gambrell

MaM: So, as far as all the bands and musicians that performed at Sidetracks over the years, who was your favorite to see and shoot?

BG: Damon Johnson is one. I’ve been a fan of his for over 29 years, since his first or second album came out, and I’ve never had a chance to see him live until he played Sidetracks. Them Dirty Roses was another one, which I mention them a good bit in the book. There are so many, honestly, but if I had to pick just one, it would be Tab Benoit. I’ve actually got a picture on my office wall that I took of him, had blown up, and then had him sign it.

MaM: How would you say Sidetracks Music Hall touched you personally? What takeaways do you have from the entire experience of seeing live music performed there?

BG: It was the atmosphere. It had a home vibe and just always felt head and shoulders above everyone else. You know, there were nights I would go there by myself, and it was never a consideration whether I should or not because it always felt safe. It felt like home. Some nights, I could go and know half the people there, and some nights I didn’t, but by the end of the night I did. I wasn’t intentionally looking for a new place to hang out when I found Sidetracks, but the more I started going there, the more I realized how awesome the place was. It had this Cheers-type vibe where everyone knew your name, and to be honest, I don’t think I ever saw one fight the entire time I was there. I saw a lot of funny stuff, but never anything bad. Nobody at Sidetracks was ever in a bad mood.


To experience the nostalgia of Sidetracks Music Hall yourself and to learn more about the establishment, Bud Gambrell’s book “Sidetracks Music Hall” is currently available for purchase on Amazon.

The link is below, so be sure to check it out! The book is currently available via paperback, hardcover, and on Kindle.

Side Tracks Music Hall: Gambrell, Bud: 9798396341999: Books


Nicole Brice loves to read. She has tons of books everywhere in her house. Do you have a creation you’d like us to check out? E-mail your suggestion to:

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